Source: India Express
Former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul, who was removed by a Supreme Court verdict last month after being in office for about six months, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in the chief minister’s official bungalow in Itanagar on Tuesday morning, sparking protests.
While Pema Khandu took over as chief minister on July 16, Pul was yet to vacate the official residence as his youngest child, born after he had become CM, had to undergo a surgery.
The doctors put the time of death as between 7 and 7.30 am. As news of Pul’s death spread, scores of his supporters gheraoed Khandu’s bungalow and demanded a probe into his “unnatural” death. They also set on fire an under-construction building of Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein and damaged two official bungalows.
The Arunachal government, that held an emergency Cabinet meeting, has set up a magisterial inquiry into Pul’s death. CM Khandu said it would determine whether there was any “foul play”. The state government also announced a three-day mourning, and said it would give Pul a State funeral.
As Pul’s supporters targeted the bungalows of ministers, police reinforcements were sent to the high-security VVIP zone where their residences are located.
Asked about the suicide note left behind by Pul as claimed by his supporters, Khandu said he had no knowledge of it.
Official sources in Itanagar said Pul, 47, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in one of the bedrooms of the CM’s official bungalow.
Pul had rebelled against the Congress to form the government in February, supported by the BJP. The move had run into controversy as sitting CM Nabam Tuki was dismissed by a “special session” of the Assembly. Recently, the Supreme Court had declared this null and void.
Though Pul had attended Khandu’s swearing-in ceremony on July 16, and taken part in the Congress Legislative Party meeting held after he returned to the party fold in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment, Pul was reportedly beginning to withdraw, and had not met any of his party colleagues in the past one week or so.
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PTI reported that Pul’s family, which includes three wives and four children, said he had not met any outsider for the past seven days.
“Pul was seated beside me during the July 16 swearing-in and he talked as usual and mixed with people. He also attended two CLP meetings after being dislodged. I am shocked at what he did. Only a thorough inquiry will reveal why he took such a drastic step. There could be so many reasons, including political, personal and financial,” Nabam Tuki said.
However, Tuki added, Pul had been a “strong-willed person”. “We were friends since 1995 when both of us met as MLAs. He held several important portfolios under so many chief ministers. He was a very strong-willed person who came from a very humble background. He was very good in finance. Yes, he and I later had a lot of differences, but those were political. There was nothing personal, and we had deep mutual respect for each other,” Tuki told The Indian Express over the phone from Itanagar.
Khandu called the news of Pul’s death “shattering.” Describing Pul as a “seasoned and veteran leader” who had served the state in various capacities, the CM said, “Besides proving his calibre as the longest serving finance minister, his hard work and dedication made him one of the tallest leaders of the state. His kind-hearted and down to earth personality touched the hearts of millions. His good deeds, especially his compassionate approach towards the needy, fetched him great name and respect.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of Pul, saying his services to Arunachal would be remembered.
After news of Pul’s death came, a section of his supporters headed towards the official residence of the Deputy CM, less than 100 metres away, damaged the outer wall, at least 10 vehicles parked on the premises and an under-construction building. Protesters also damaged the official bungalow of Industries Minister Tapang Taloh.
Pul’s supporters told the media that they would not allow his body to be taken out of his bungalow at E S S sector and insisted that he be cremated on the premises. A coffin brought from outside was set on fire by the crowd.
Pul had lost his mother when he was one and his father at the age of six. He learnt carpentry, sold furniture, worked as a night chowkidar at Rs 212 per month as well as sold odd goods such as paan-bidi to fund his education. First elected as Congress MLA in 1995, he currently represented Hayuliang constituency in the Assembly.
Speaking to The Indian Express after taking over as the eighth CM of Arunachal, Pul had said, “I grew up in an aunt’s house, getting only one meal for picking firewood from the jungle. One day I ran away and joined a carpentry school, where they gave me a stipend of Rs 1.50 per day.”
(with PTI inputs from Itanagar)